Members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) have been urged to strictly adhere to professional ethics and values in the discharge of their duties ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Mr Yakubu Mohammed, former Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NewsWatch, gave the charge in a paper he presented at the 14th All Nigerian Guild of Editors Conference (ANEC) on Thursday in Asaba.
Mohammed’s paper was titled: “The Role of the Editors in Ensuring Credible Elections in Nigeria’’.
He noted that conducting credible elections in Nigeria had become a major challenge due to the overwhelming interference of politicians in the electoral process.
He, therefore, urged editors to be professional in their analysis and handling of political stories before, during and after the 2019 general elections.
He said editors were not electoral umpires and should therefore not be directly involved in the electioneering process.
“However, editors and journalists, in general, have a responsibility especially in the education and enlightenment of the voters.
“In elections, the most difficult people to manage are the politicians because of their conduct and desperation to achieve their personal ambitions.
“On the other hand, the political parties that are supposed to market their manifestos and candidates have largely failed in that aspect.
“Instead, they have chosen to manipulate the electoral process’’, Mohammed said.
He said editors must remain focused and ensure professionalism in their conducts so as to maintain the credibility of their medium.
According to him, the citizens look up to the media to understand the programmes of the political parties and the characteristics of the various candidates.
Mohammed said the editors should lay the framework on how to ensure that elections became more meaningful to citizens.
“An editor must be credible enough in his work to ensure he or she achieves the success of the mandate of upholding the government accountable to the people.
“He must not allow personal interest to cross the lines of his professional obligations. The editor should ensure balance in electoral reportage by guiding against biased reporting.
“In all, I think an editor must learn to remain credible and should not be partisan in his/her professional conduct,” he added.
Similarly, Mr Eniola Bello, Managing Director, ThisDay newspaper, said elections in the country had become a fierce confrontation among multiple interests.
“In Nigeria today, elections have become a big war because of the desperation for political powers and influence.
“If you do not have the powers and the means to fight the electoral battle, you dare not venture into politics in this country.
“Regrettably, the media has become handicapped in ensuring credible elections because the politicians are so powerful and desperate in the pursuit of their political ambition,’’ he said.
Bello further noted that the trend whereby media practitioners served as consultants to politicians in distorting the truth remained unprofessional and an antithesis to the growth of democracy.
He also said the credibility of elections in the country had become a mirage because politicians saw the process as a do or die affair.
According to him, it has become imperative to reduce the powers attached to political offices so that politicians could begin to have a new orientation of service to the people.
“In my own opinion, we should try and make political offices less lucrative so that whoever is going there should know that he or she is going to serve and not to assume power.
“In so doing, we can talk of achieving credible elections because it will no longer be a do or die affair,’’ Bello said.
He also said it was incumbent on the media to scale up political education and enlightenment that could result in public political participation.
Hundreds of editors are staying away from their various newsrooms to attend the conference in Asaba.